It was June 21, the first day of summer, when the Mariners last saw Justin Verlander, and they were overmatched until Jarrod Dyson dropped down a one-out bunt in the sixth inning.
Before then, Verlander had all 16 batters he’d faced, including 10 by strikeout, and the Mariners trailed by four runs.
Dyson’s bunt ignited a remarkable comeback that resulted in a 7-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Safeco Field that lifted the Mariners back to .500.
""It sucks, there’s no sugarcoating it," Verlander said afterward. "You feel like everything was rolling…Then a couple of fluky things happen and the next thing you know we’re losing.
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"There is no nice way to put it. You can’t say it’s an easy loss to handle; it’s not."
Verlander didn't survive the sixth inning and finished with a line that showed three runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. When the Tigers bullpen imploded one inning later, Verlander settled for a no-decision.
The Mariners knew they had pulled one out of their ear.
"That was a great win," said Nelson Cruz, who contributed three RBIs to the comeback. "The way (Verlander) was pitching, four runs looks like a lot."
Manager Scott Servais added: "That’s as good of a starter as we’ve seen all year. Verlander was really on top of his game. The fastball had life, and he was landing the curveball whenever he wanted to."
Until Dyson’s bunt.
"I’m sure he didn’t like it," Dyson said. "But at the same time, he looked comfortable on the mound. He about blew our whole lineup away. So I tried to lay down a bunt and get him off the mound."
That was 11 weeks ago.
Much has changed.
Verlander (10-8 with a 3.82 ERA with the Tigers) returns Tuesday night to Safeco Field for his first start since an Aug. 31 trade brought him to the Houston Astros.
"It’s going to be so nerve-wracking," Verlander told USA Today prior to Houston’s 6-2 victory in Monday’s series opener. "I know I’ll be so nervous. It’ll be like opening day."
One other change: Dyson aggravated a strained right groin muscle over the weekend. He isn’t expected to play.
***Monday’s loss dropped the Mariners back to .500 at 69-69, but they remained 2 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth. Six clubs are within three games of the Twins.
***Both clubs are expected to recall players prior to the game since their Triple-A affiliates concluded their seasons on Monday.
***The Mariners are starting lefty Ariel Miranda (8-6, 4.85) against Verlander. It projects as a tough matchup for Miranda, whose 35 homers allowed are tied for the major-league lead. The Astros rank third in the majors with 210 homers.
***Robinson Cano is the Mariners’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes one player each year for accomplishments on and off the field. The winner will be announced at the World Series.
***Miranda is facing Houston for the fifth time this season. He is 0-2 with a 5.70 ERA and has allowed seven homers in 23 2/3 innings.
***George Springer is 4-for-13 with four homers in his career against Miranda. Two of those homers came this season while leading off in the first inning. Jose Altuve is 4-for-15.
***Verlander is 10-8 with a 3.15 ERA in 22 career stars against the Mariners, including 5-5 and 3.95 in 12 starts at Safeco Field.
***Kyle Seager is 7-for-19 (.368) with two homers in his career against Verlander. Nelson Cruz is 12-for-46 (.261) with three homers, but Cano is just 13-for-60 (.217).
***The Astros hold a 9-5 lead in the season series with five games remaining. They need one more victory to win the season series for a third straight year.
***Houston’s 43-22 road record is the best in the majors.
***Altuve is batting .354 and leads the AL batting race by 32 points over Chicago outfielder Avisail Garcia. Mariners shortstop Jean Segura is eighth at .306.
***Altuve also has the best WAR (wins above replacement) rating in the majors at plus 7.4. Washington pitcher Max Scherzer is second at 7.2, followed by Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton at 6.6.
***Cruz leads the AL with 104 RBIs, which is just four shy of his career-best 108 in 2014 while with Baltimore. His former Orioles teammate, Jonathan Schoop, is second with 101.
It was 34 years ago Tuesday — Sept. 5, 1983 — that Harold Reynolds made his first major-league start. He batted ninth and played second base in a 13-6 victory at Kansas City.
Reynolds went 2-for-5 with a double and a triple and scored two runs. His first big-league hit was a double in the fourth inning against Larry Gura.
It was Reynolds’ second big-league game. He made his debut on Sept. 2 as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning but did not get an at-bat.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners